Tempura is a Japanese deep fried dish usually consisting of seafood and vegetables. Pieces like shrimp or cut vegetables are lightly dipped in a lumpy batter and deep fried to a light golden color. Tempura was actually introduced to Japan in the 16th century by the Portuguese at the trading port of Nagasaki in the form of fried battered vegetables like green beans and peppers. The Portuguese missionaries and merchants brought with them a frying technique using a batter made out of flour and eggs during their residence in Nagasaki. This was adopted by the Japanese and became a popular snack at yatai stalls (Japanese food stalls) at the beginning of the 17th century in the Tokyo Bay area. Fresh seafood being abundantly available at the time, ingredients like fish and shrimp were often used. It’s characteristic crispy texture was developed during this period and it is said that modern tempura stems from this old ‘Tokyo style’ tempura.
Modern day tempura uses a light batter made from wheat flour, eggs and ice cold water. The mixture is kept lumpy to form an outer layer of crispy bits and pieces during frying. It’s important to keep the oil at a steady temperature careful not to overcook the tempura. Popular kinds of tempura are ebi (shrimp), sakana (small whitefish), nasu (eggplant) and sweet potato. Kakiage is a special kind of tempura made out of a mixture of thinly sliced vegetables and either small shrimps or other seafood. Using tempura you can create Tendon, a variety of different kinds of tempura over a bowl of rice and topped with a sweet tare (a thick and sweet soy based sauce). Itadakimasu!